Yellow Cream Filling, Flowers & Bunnies – Springtime Oreos & the Oreo Anniversary Series, One Year Later!

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I have to say, I have impeccable timing.  Almost a year to the day of Oreo’s 100th Anniversary (March 6, 2012), I stumble on their gorgeous, bright, happy and cheerful, brand spankin’ new springtime Oreos!  Yes, springtime Oreos!  Adorned with butterflies, flowers, bumblebees, smiling suns, and frogs and lily pads on the cookies on the outside and special yellow cream filling on the inside.  Yellow, one of my favourite colours.  Yellow, the sunny colour that makes me happy.  And now the colour of a special edition Oreo filling.  Sigh.  This makes me happy.

I don’t know if these special seasonal, springtime treats are released every year or not but they’re certainly brand new and shiny to me and I LOVE THEM.  Even though I know there are folks who moan and groan about special edition items and dislike the concept of releasing things that aren’t permanent or readily available (trust me, I’ve grumbled over my fair share of special edition items that were out of my reach in my time), stuff like this is just pure fun and happiness.

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And where did I find this bundle of yummy sunshine?  At Uncle John’s Candy Shack on Mount Pleasant Road, one of my favourite candy shops and speciality stories in the city!  It’s been a very long time since I last posted photos from the shop (almost two years!) and I really missed just popping into the store every once in awhile to see what new goodies were ripe for the picking.  I missed scoping out the flavoured Kit-Kats and M&Ms and ogling the collectible tins so I finally told myself to stop beating around the bush and just GO.  So I did, 2 weekends ago.  And I was rewarded.  With Oreos!  And you know, St. Patrick’s Day themed candies and merchandise, cute-as-a-button Easter sweets, and pastels.  Lots and lots of pastels!

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To be clear though, these Oreos are for novelty.  They don’t taste any different from regular Oreos; they’re just etched with cute designs and filled with a sunny yellow cream filling (can you imagine if the filling tasted like banana or lemon?!  Hmmm, something to chew on…).  I don’t care though.  I love the way regular Oreos taste and these are such a treat to me because I always feel like we get the short end of the stick north of the border.  I was crestfallen when I couldn’t find the special Christmas Oreos with the red cream filling and Santa etched on the cookies; they were so cute.  So this is kind of like an Oreo redemption.  I’d say there are about 36 cookies in the package (I haven’t taken the whole cookie tray out to count) and they’re $4.99 a pop.  Oreo lovers unite!

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Uncle John’s Candy Shack is located at 635 Mount Pleasant Rd. in between Eglinton and Davisville Ave.

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Say It With Chocolate – Celebrating Valentine’s Day With M&M Goodies and Heart-Shaped Tins!

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It’s the night of Valentine’s and as I am writing this, I am sitting on my couch wrapped in my fuzzy red blanket, quietly reminiscing about Valentine’s past and the fun and sweet Valentine’s memories I made today and over the past week.  Decked out in dangly heart earrings, heart printed socks, and my little red jacket, I spent the day with my other half where we enjoyed heart shaped veggie pizza, cookies and cream Hershey Kisses, and dvd episodes of Big Bang Theory.  A day of love and fun much like any other, but special, loving, and heartfelt nonetheless.  Valentine’s Day is quite the commercial occasion, yes, but it’s also a day to acknowledge and reflect on love in all its beautiful forms.  It’s a day to have fun and a day to remind all of us of all the people, pets, and things in our life that warm our hearts and bring us joy. 

In that vein, humour me while I rattle off some reasons why I love Valentine’s:

  1. everything is decked out in red, pink, and white (and the occasional purple)
  2. everything is printed with cute hearts
  3. Valentine’s restaurant menus are fun to look at (not so much fun to pay for, but fun in a creative and thematic way!)
  4. Valentine’s themed accessories and jewelry fit effortlessly into my wardrobe (I wear heart necklaces and earrings, and both my rainbow and hot pink-and-gray heart printed argyle socks all year round)
  5. Valentine’s themed stationery, kitchen, home decor, and baking accessories are too darling not to love
  6. the classic “I Choo-Choo-Choose You” Simpsons episode is one of the best things to ever grace cartoon television
  7. kiddie Valentine’s in general (don’t tell me you never gave your friends and classmates Lion King, Disney Princess, Looney Tunes, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Spiderman, Animanics, Winnie the Pooh, Hello Kitty, and/or Casper the Friendly Ghost valentine cards!)
  8. my best friend, who’s a kindergarten teacher, gets to celebrate Valentine’s with her little ones in kindergarten party fashion complete with crafts, edible goodies, and the quintessential paper baggy card exchange
  9. Valentine’s desserts.  Enough said.
  10. it is yet another occasion ridiculously devoted to chocolate!  Unless you are like my best friend and allergic, this works in your favour. 

And it is here that I will focus on Reason #10.  Everyone is a different type of Valentine’s candy person.  Some get giddy over the cheesy conversation hearts while others will enjoy the bright red spicy cinnamon hearts by the fistful.  Then there are the chocolate enthusiasts.  You know who you are.  The ones who will scarf down an entire box in one night, or the folks who show up at the shops first thing in the morning on February 15th, ready to roll with a shopping basket and a thirst (or rather, appetite) for chocolate on sale.  In those chocolicious moments, the whole world is right.  For some, there is no better way to express love than saying it with chocolate. 

I fall under the second category.  The culprits?  Cookies and cream Hershey Kisses and any and all M&Ms.  You are all aware of my love affair with M&Ms and the pride and joy that is my M&M tin collection!  Imagine my happy dance then when I found a brand new, heart-shaped M&Ms candy tin for Valentine’s Day!  With my favourite green girl M&M on it!  In my chocolate universe, it doesn’t get any better than that.  I know chocolate sales are ubiquitous the day after Valentine’s, but I’ve been through many heartbreaking situations in my life where I would hem and haw about an item, wistfully walk away for the time being, and come back to it only to find it gone.  It’s an awful habit of mine and given how dearly beloved these M&Ms tins are to me, there was no way I was about to take that chance again.  Especially considering they were only available at Pharma Plus drug stores!

In addition to the heart-shaped tin and the coconut M&Ms I love so much, I found myself mint dark chocolate ones too!  After paying a visit to Yonge Market a few weeks ago (where I found the coconut M&Ms at their least expensive last summer – only $0.99 a bag!) and finding out they didn’t have any of the coconut ones, I made my way back to Uncle John’s Candy Shack on Mount Pleasant Rd.  I picked up a baggy of coconut M&Ms and was absolutely ecstatic when I found out they had new mint dark chocolate ones! 

I’ve been so jealous of my American counterparts who have special flavours like strawberry and raspberry, so it felt so nice to find a new flavour I had never encountered before.  They’re $1.49/bag and although the price has gone up by $0.10 since last summer, it’s still less expensive than several other candy shops around the city who sell them for $1.59, $1.79, and even for $1.99!  I am dying to rip open all my M&M candy packages and devour all the goodness inside, but part of me really wants to save them to use for cookies.  Who knew Valentine’s could put me in such a chocolate predicament?  If I bake them in cookies, you will see them and hear about them.  If I eat them all, you’ll just see a very happy me.  Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone, from my heart to yours!

*****

Uncle John’s Candy Shack is located at 635 Mount Pleasant Rd. between Eglinton and Davisville Ave., just north of Manor Rd.

Candies and Food Traditions – Wishing Everyone a Happy and Sweet Chinese (Lunar) New Year!

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To all those who celebrate, Happy Chinese New Year!  The day may be drawing to a close, but my festivities are only getting started!  I’m celebrating with family next weekend and I’m hoping to get a few fun Chinese food posts on the blog this week.  Chinese New Year has been low-key for me so far but I’ve definitely been enjoying some great food!  I’ve been munching on an egg tart, a pineapple bakery bun, a dried chive and shredded pork and bakery bun, a yummy vegetarian dish, and some very awesome roast pork!  Aside from the roast pork which I really only eat maybe twice a year, I do eat many of the others at all times of the year but you know how it is.  Everything just feels more celebratory and festive during a special occasion, so eating Chinese bakery buns and egg tarts this weekend made me feel extra warm and fuzzy inside.

Traditionally, a dinner with meat is eaten on new year’s eve (thus, yesterday) and a vegetarian one on new year’s day.  We had some fabulous roast pork last night and today, we had big dish of cellophane noodles (“fun see”) with snow peas, peppers, and mushrooms.  On vegetarian day, we often have the cellophane noodles with veggies or melon squash as well as a big dish with different types of beancurd (“jai”) including curry beancurd, sweet and sour bean curd, seaweed, and others which we always eat with steamed rice.  I wasn’t the biggest fan of the vegetarian dishes when I was little (bean curd just doesn’t sound appetizing to a child’s ears!), but I absolutely love it as an adult now and love that there are delicious Chinese vegetarian and vegan options. 

And we certainly can’t forget the special Chinese New Year’s candies!  My family and I have made going to the adorable candy buffets at the malls and markets into a tradition every year.  They look exactly like the ones I posted last year from Market Village and Pacific Mall and it’s so much fun because there’s always something new and different amidst the familiar candies that are brought back on a yearly basis.  Our little Chinese New Year candy bowl has marshmallows with fruit filling, colourful jelly candies, milk candies, and hard lychee candies among others.  I love the marshmallows and colourful jellies the most and having these candies in the house makes me feel like I just went out trick-or-treating!  I have fond memories of filling red pockets (which weren’t actually red, but were instead cute new year envelopes with Winnie the Pooh on them) with candies for my friends in high school, just for fun.  

All my best wishes for good health, wealth, happiness, and prosperity this year!  Gung Hay Fat Choi, Sun Leen Fai Lok!  

Foodie Childhood Memories – Crackers, Vanilla Creams, and Deb’s Favourite Chinese and Asian Candies and Snacks!

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I know going to the supermarket may not be up everyone’s alley (“do we have to go near the smelly fish tank?”; “why are people fighting over the corn over there?”; “why is this line-up moving so freakin’ slow?!”), but I bet you the one thing that gets everyone off their bums and into the store are the snacks!  A lot of us may be all grown up now, leading hectic lives with schedules all over the place.  But that doesn’t mean we forget the simplest pleasures in life.  For me, one of the most nostalgic, happy food pleasures is walking down the candy and snack aisles at the Chinese grocery store, or looking up at the dizzying array of sweets and crunchy munchies before me in the candy stores in Chinatown or in Pacific Mall, Market Village, and First Markham Place in Markham. 

I don’t go the Chinese grocery store as often as I used to.  For one thing, as I grew older, many of my weekends were spent staying at home doing homework as opposed to accompanying my parents during outings.  And for another, a lot of my childhood was centered around doing things with my grandparents and my aunt and uncle, so after my aunt and uncle moved to Australia and after my family and I moved further away from my grandparents, the time spent with them inevitably shrank.  And so did my time going to Chinese supermarkets.

A few weeks ago, I sat around pondering about a new series to introduce on the blog.  Something fun and something to ignite the childhood memories and experiences with food we all adored so much.  During a trip to Pacific Mall and Market Village, I thought, “why not do a Chinese and Asian candy and snack series?”  The idea got me all in a tizzy.  I hadn’t done anything like it on the blog yet, I knew a lot of people would enjoy it, and hell, it would give me and excuse to buy and eat all the snacks I used to love (and still love) so much!  We’re talking about the infamous Pocky, Hello Panda chocolate-filled biscuits, Yan-Yan, Hello Kitty candies, gummies, jellies, chocolates, crackers, and all that good stuff.

One of my earliest memories of eating Chinese snacks was from kindergarten.  My mum gave me these Bin-Bin rice crackers to take with me to school (I don’t have a photo of them right now, but Google them and you’ll see which ones I’m referring to) along with my Vita-Soy drink box, and Teddy Grahams – how’s that for east meets west?  I remember my dad picking up some fruit gummy snacks for me when I was 5 (the ones shown in the first photo) during his trips to pick up Chinese “copy books” for me at the convenience store (little books that helped me practise my handwriting), and I’ll always remember the yummy dry seaweed packs I’d eat during recess at school and the chocolate and strawberry Yan-Yans that were so fun to dunk and eat. 

I love the feeling I get looking at all these snacks I used to enjoy so much.  And that’s not to say that I don’t enjoy them now.  Sure, I’ll snatch up a little box of Pocky every once in awhile, or I’ll stop to quickly look at a few things while I’m passing by an aisle or store.  A few months ago I even tried the new mango Yan-Yan just for kicks!  But those isolated incidents are just that – isolated.  It isn’t until you fully immerse yourself in it again that you remember what a happy part of your life it used to be.  So I hunted down some of my favourites to share with you guys – and of course, stuff my face in!  I have plenty more where this came from, so we’ll start with two of my favourite snacks, one of which is savoury and the other, sweet.  Behold, the shrimp crackers and vanilla cream Collon biscuits!

Oh man.  These shrimp crackers are even better than most types of potato chips.  I know it’s a bit of a misnomer considering they don’t look like the typical rectangular, square, or circular cracker, but they’re a savoury snack that crunches just the same!  They look like little corkscrew fries and they melt in your mouth like butter.  Is the shrimp flavour really that pronounced?  Not really, but it’s subtle, it’s in there and damn, are these shrimp crackers ever good. 

And my vanilla cream Collon biscuits!  I don’t know if the manufacturers have just stopped shipping out as many, but these were a little harder to find which made me sad because I love them so much.  The vanilla ones are just slightly easier to get your hands on than other flavours like chocolate and the vanilla with chocolate varieties.  But they are amazing.  These are tiny vanilla cream filled wafers that are thimble-sized and look like little cyclindrical logs.  The outer layer is crunchy vanilla wafer while the inside is super smooth and creamy vanilla.  The filling tastes like frosting and if you think eating bar nuts or popcorn is bad once you get started, you need to eat these.  You will hug them.  And love them.  And want more.  I’ve been saving my box for a cozy, rainy, lounging-on-the-couch-watching-tv kind of day.  And whaddya know, this whole weekend is supposed to be rainy!  It looks like I have a yummy companion for the next few days – no promises that the box won’t be finished before Monday.          

Happy September! Starting the Month Off on a Sweet Note: Old Firehall Confectionery in Unionville, Part I

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Happy first day of September everyone!  I know summer is far from over, but I have to say, I am SO excited for the upcoming fall and harvest season!  I am in conniptions at the thought of fall tea and drinks, baking apple desserts (because of my allergies, I can’t eat apples raw anyway so it’s win-win here), scoping out the best places to buy canned pumpkin, and indulging in those awesome traditional foods and dishes I love so much for Thanksgiving.  You know, the turkey, the gravy, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, the whole North American bit.  I’m a total sucker for all of it, but I also know it’s not exactly the easiest foodie occasion for vegetarians and vegans to get around so I’m determined to find some delicious veggie Thanksgiving stuff for myself and my friends to enjoy in and around the city.  I actually started a bit of research on that last fall and I’m excited to see what options there are this time around. 

Oh!  And the farmers’ markets.  My camera is raring to go and I am so looking forward to snapping photos of squash and pumpkins and apples (thankfully it’s not lethal to touch or look!) and maybe if I’m lucky, I’ll be able to visit an apple orchard, just for fun.  September also marks a month filled with foodie events and festivals around the city and you can bet the whole city will be out for the Vegetarian Food Festival and Canada’s Baking and Sweets Show, among many others, later on this month.  I have so much planned for the blog for the upcoming fall season and I hope you all like what I have in store.

I want to start the month off on a sweet note, so let me ask you a question: if you could create your very own sweet tooth world, what would your ideal dessert haven consist of?  Would you have candies and chocolates?  Enough fudge to put you in a blissful sugar coma?  How about ice cream with a gazillion different types of cones and flavours and styles of regular ice cream and soft serve?  Or maybe your dessert universe would be filled with frosted cupcakes?  Oh, and of course we can’t forget the luxurious sweet nibbles such as macarons and truffles. 

Now that I have you daydreaming and drooling (and possibly wanting to run out the door to the nearest dessert-whatever), you can stop.  Because your dreams have come true.  What if I told you that this sugary utopia existed right under your nose (or at the very least in the GTA) and that EVERYTHING I just dangled in front of you exists under one roof?  Oh yes.  It’s a candy store, chocolatier, ice cream parlour, and cupcakery, and patisserie all in one amazing world of happiness.  Located in one of my favourite neighbourhoods and especially a favourite for me during the fall, I paid my first visit this summer and if I could, I would live here.  Assume your mouth in the position of jaw-dropping awe.  I present to you, Old Firehall Confectionery on Main Street Unionville in Markham:

Where are the macarons and cupcakes, you ask?  Oh, they’re there.  That’s what Part II and Part III are for 😉  Enjoy!

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Old Firehall Confectionery is located at 170 Main Street in the historic Main Street Unionville neighbourhood between Carlton Rd. and Hwy 7.  The dessert haven is located between Carlton Rd. and Fred Varley Drive.  Main Street is located just east of Kennedy Rd.

Enough Fudge to Put You in a Sugar Coma! The Nutty Chocolatier on Queen St. East in the Beaches, Part II

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I adore this beautiful art outside The Nutty Chocolatier’s front door.  I think I have four or five pictures of this pretty mural alone.  It’s eye-catching, it’s colourful, and so happy-go-lucky.  You have chocolate bars hugging, truffles skipping about, and some very smiley lollipops.  It’s such a cute way of exemplifying how much fun candy shops can be and how everyone has a soft spot for candies and chocolates in same way.  When I visit candy stores, I don’t buy a lot.  To me, less is more because otherwise, it becomes overwhelming and it ends up spoiling when it gets to be too much.  I love walking away with one special treat, something to enjoy on the ride back home or something to savour later.   

I do enjoy my Fuzzy Peaches as well as peach and green apple gummy rings, but what I look forward to the most is finding special imports, and limited edition collectibles and novelty items!  Things like adorable tin lunch boxes, imported candies, different flavours of old classics, that sort of thing.  This is what sets each and every candy shop apart from each other.  For example, I know a handful of places where you can get the special coconut M&Ms, but can you always get them at lower prices?  Nope.  Which is why I still stand by my top two picks on where to get them for cheap: Yonge Market ($1) and Uncle John’s Candy Shack ($1.39).  What appeals to me the most is the stuff that you can’t get anywhere else, and that same great stuff for really good prices.

What threw me for a loop the very first time I came here was their ridiculously huge selection of potato chips!  You know, those little snack-size bags of Ruffles or Lays that we, in North America, are so accustomed to seeing?  Imagine those, but instead of Ruffles or Lays, they’re Walkers and they come in flavours like roasted chicken, pickled onion, and prawn cocktail!  And you sooo know these are from the UK because, as my English friend Alex once said, “we say prawn, not shrimp!”  Ha! 😀  The little baggies of potato chips are in boxes closer to the back of the candy shop and there are at least ten flavours to choose from.  The little baggies are $1 each, but I’m almost positive that if you buy several, there’s a deal.  If you love unexpected flavours and potato chips, or if you’re just plain curious, I totally recommend their selection!

At the Nutty Chocolatier, their standouts are their fudge, truffles, and their imported candies, chocolates, and savoury snacks which, for the most part, come from the UK.  Their selection varies over time, but if you love fudge and if you like finding different flavours of certain chocolates, you will love it here!  Their selection of fresh fudge is out of this world.  Slabs and slabs of it sit on their cutting boards in a bazillion different flavours and the girls who work here are happy to slice you a piece to sample!  They have flavours like chocolate cheesecake chip, banana chocolate, chocolate orange, peanut butter cup, rocky road, Turtles fudge, chewy praline, and watermelon!  I know, watermelon fudge!  The slab is white, pink, and green with chocolate chips in it to resemble seeds and I grabbed a sample to try and it tasted really fruit and chocolatey!  Kind of like watermelon mixed with white chocolate. 

The fudge looked so good, especially the chocolate cheesecake chip and the chocolate orange, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish whatever I bought so I settled for a rich, sweet sample.  The prices differ based on flavour, but the prices are calculated by weight (per 100g) and there are prepackaged slabs of fudge for you to choose from too.

The Nutty Chocolatier has a HUGE selection of candies, but to be honest, I’d pass on the candy and focus more on the chocolate products (if you can eat them) or their savoury snacks (like the UK imported chips), just because I find that the candy prices are a little more expensive than other places and it’s just not necessary, in my opinion, to pay more for candies that you could get elsewhere for less. 

But!  For those who like flavoured Kit Kats and who loooove mint chocolate, you’re in luck!  The candy shop has a special mint chocolate Kit Kat UK import!  They’re mini Kit Kats and you can either buy them individually near the cash, or you can pick up party packs with 9 mini packs inside.  Each mini has two chocolate wafers.  Even though I’m still warming up to mint chocolate, I was pretty excited to find these!  I adore flavoured Kit Kats and although I haven’t tried every flavour under the sun, my favourite over the years has been the orange Kit Kat and I was so giddy when I found special mini orange Kit Kats from the UK at Uncle John’s Candy Shack almost two months ago.

The candy and chocolate shop also serves ice cream and gelato and they have plenty of novelty items like mugs and tin lunch boxes.  It’s a big shop and it’s so much fun to look at everything.  If you’re ever in the Beaches area, drop in and take a look because it’s one of those novelty stores that you just have to visit and roam around in because of their sheer volume of stock.  And who knows, maybe the next time I’m there I’ll succumb to temptation and pick up some fudge after all.

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The Nutty Chocolatier is located in the Beaches neighbourhood at 2179 Queen Street East, east of Woodbine Ave. and in between Lee and Hambly Ave.

Skipping Down Chocolate & Candy Lane – The Nutty Chocolatier on Queen St. East in the Beaches, Part I

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My trip to The Nutty Chocolatier in the Beaches area on Queen St. East was well worth the wait.  I waited A YEAR to come back to this sweet morsel of confectionary to finally take the photos I wanted to take.  You all know how anal I am about my photos.  If I don’t like them, I retake until I’m satisfied.  And if it takes me a year to go back to a place, I will mumble and grumble but patiently wait till the day I get to come back.  I know it sounds so silly considering that all it takes is a subway and streetcar ride.  But the weather doesn’t always cooperate when you make plans to go, sometimes you just feel like exploring another neighbourhood, and other times you run out of bus tokens and tickets and feel too cheap to buy more, and thus the trip is prolonged for another chunk of time.  Sigh.  Tis the life of a foodie. 

I went to the Beaches area for the first time last summer and I was so, so excited to go back to revisit some places and to explore a bit more this past month.  The Beaches area is beautiful.  It’s quaint, it’s peaceful, and it has that lovely mom-and-pop feel.  Added bonus?  It’s just a hop, skip, step away from Woodbine beach!  When you walk along Queen St. E, it feels so nice because you can feel the balmy air coming in from the shore.  When I spend a day in the Beaches, my plan of action involves getting off the Queen streetcar at Woodbine Ave. and walking east till I’m too tired to keep walking, ha! 

Even though I may not buy things in every candy shop I go into (what self-control I have!), I looove looking and The Nutty Chocolatier is a BIG shop that offers candy, chocolate, British imports and memorabilia (there were plenty of William and Kate mugs among other things when I was there this past month, haha), gelato and icecream, imported chips and savoury snacks, and lots and lots of fudge!  So here’s a teaser post with photos of The Nutty Chocolatier, the resident neighbourhood candy store, fudge shop, and cavity-inducing sugar emporium with plenty of local and imported sweets and treats 😀

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The Nutty Chocolatier is located in the Beaches neighbourhood at 2179 Queen Street East, east of Woodbine Ave. and in between Lee and Hambly Ave.